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“Farmers should raise less corn
and more hell.”
-Mary Lease, Populist
The Emergence of the Populist Party
Original Purpose 1867
“To provide a social outlet and
educational services for isolated
When the banker says he’s broke
And the merchants up in smoke,
They forget that it’s the farmer who
feeds them all.
It would put them to the test
If the farmer took a rest;
Then they’d know that it’s the farmer
who feeds them all.
• The Grange united to combat the
monopolistic practices of the
railroads and grain elevators
– Its aim was to advance the political,
economic, and social interests of the
– 860,000 national members
• One way they did this was by Grange
members getting elected to local,
state legislature and Congress offices
• Elected members to state legislature
• Passed “Granger Laws” in the states
to regulate the rates charged by
railroads and warehouses.
• Supreme Court overturns many of
• Populist Movement
– Farmers caught up in a new and
complex international market
– Factors that upset farmers:
1. Farm prices had steadily declined from
2. Railroads charged high shipping rates.
3. Farmers mortgaged their farms to buy new
4. High tariffs increased prices of factory
goods that farmers needed.
The Populist Party
• Increase money supply – create inflation
which would raise the prices for crops.
• Free coinage of silver – farmers wanted
silver on the currency system.
• Graduated income tax – taxes increase as
• Direct election of Senators by the people.
• Secret Ballot during elections.
The Populist Party
• Initiative –A way for people to rather
than legislature to originate laws.
• Referendum – A way for a proposed
law to be voted on by the people.
• Recall – A way for people to remove a
public official from office.
Election of 1892
• The Populists did not win the
presidential election, but did
achieve huge results throughout
• Populists elected governors in Kansas
and North Dakota, 10 U.S.
Congressmen, 5 U.S. Senators, and 1500
members to state legislatures
• Farmer’s debts
• Rapid railroad
• Drainage of gold from
treasury as a result of
the Sherman Silver
Result of Panic
• By the end of the year, over 15,000
businesses and 500 banks had
• Farmers and Workers demand change.
• Populist Party and Democratic Party
nominate William Jennings Bryan who
favors money to be backed in both gold
Election of 1896
• William Jennings Bryan
• William McKinley
• Candidate =
•Platform (Beliefs) :
U.S. Currency should
remain based on
Election of 1896
Democratic and Populist Party
• Candidate = Bryan
Platform (what they stood for):
•Bimetallism – free coinage of silver
• Belief was to use gold and silver in the currency
system. Result would allow more money to be
• At this time currency was only backed by gold.
•Woman suffrage – voting rights
•Income Tax – tax on people’s income
Bryan vs. McKinley
More money in
Less money in
Products would sell for
Loans would be paid in
Value of money
More people have
Value of money
Fewer people have
• McKinley wins
with 7 million
• Populist Party
Legacy of the
• The downtrodden (lower class) could
organize and have political impact
• Many of the ideas of the Populist
Party Platform became law during
the first years of the 20th century
L. Frank Baum, a reform-minded Democrat who supported
William Jennings Bryan's pro-silver candidacy,
wrote the book… The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a parable
of the Populists, an allegory of their failed efforts to reform
the nation in 1896.
Wonderful Wizard of Oz
the common person.
She was from Kansas
•The Munchkins represent the “little people”
The Wicked Witch of the East
represented all the things
back east that were
Bringing the farmers down…
bankers and factories.
In the book Dorothy’s slippers were silver. In the movie they are red.
As Dorothy walked along the Yellow Brick Road
(gold) in her silver slippers it represented the proper relationship between gold and silver.
The main cause of the Populist Party to put both gold and silver on the currency system.
Along the way, Dorothy meets three companions:
1.The Scarecrow, who represents the farmer. Farmers were considered uneducated
and dumb they were called names like “hicks” and “hayseeds.”
2. The Tin Man represents the industrial worker who had lost his heart and only focused
on working in the factories.
3. The Cowardly Lion represents William Jennings Bryan, who actually was not a coward,
but stepped up and took on the Populist cause of free silver as the 1896 Presidential
candidate for the Democratic Party.
The Wicked Witch of the West represents all the things out
west that are hurting the farmers…railroad rates, low farm prices, tariffs, etc.
The Emerald City
represents Washington D.C.
The Wizard represents
politicians who are not always
What they seem.
OZ represents ounces –
16 ounces of silver = 1 bar of gold
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
• In Baum’s book, Dorothy pours water
over the Wicked Witch of the West
and she melts. This represents the
long drought that farmers had to
endure in the Great Plains. Dorothy
returns to Kansas using her magical
silver slippers (free coinage of silver)
and the scarecrow (farmer) rules
Legacy of the Populist Party
• Direct election of senators (17th
• Federal Income tax (16th
• Women’s suffrage (19th Amendment)